This month’s interview is with Blake Chorpenning. Blakely Chorpenning lives and loves with her family in the American South. She hopes to create a lasting bond with readers through complex characters and raw situations that speak beyond age, background, and time. She is the author of 'Frayed' and 'Souled Out'. 'Tin Moon' is her literary fiction debut.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
Ninth grade was hard for a lot of reasons. It is for a lot of people, I suppose. But I had this glorious writing teacher that showed me how important it is to not only see the world, but document it in our own words, in our own way. She showed us artwork. We watched movies. That's where I first watched and fell in love with 'A River Runs Through It'. We read poetry that sounded like poetry, and poetry that sounded like parkour for the tongue. She gave us no boundaries. She told us to make it our own. And so I realized that my words had power because no one experiences the world in the same way.
And I began to write then.
Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
I don't know that I view it as a spiritual practice. It lifts my spirit, keeps it balanced. I can't process the world without it. Does that count? :D Maybe. Yes, I think I could say that it heals my soul and keeps my spirit healthy. That may be a type of spiritual practice.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I enjoy research. 'Souled Out' and 'Frayed' are paranormal and urban fantasy, so there wasn't much research involved. Maybe little tidbits here and there, but nothing substantial. With 'Tin Moon', however, I began researching a good two years before I ever sat down to write it. With it being historical fiction, on top of it being about an area where many friends and acquaintances live, I vowed silently to represent it in the most accurate way possible.
Many hours were spent online, as well as in the special historical room at the local library. I also was extremely lucky to have access to the memoirs of a local retired teacher. I spent a few hours combing through her wonderful scrapbook, and taking notes on things like the time of year for fruit trees to bloom and the ins and outs of tobacco farming.
What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
I never base any of my characters on real people. There are so many characters fighting to get out of my head, as it is. I prefer to work from emotions that I have experienced, and give my characters their own unique situations that may call on those same emotions. That's as close as I get to mixing my fictional worlds with reality.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I do. I like to see what readers think. In my opinion, even a "bad" review is a good review, because it shows that someone felt enough emotion to want to share their thoughts. If a reader spends her/his time reading my work, they have the right to express their opinions. I respect them all. At times, some are hard to read. I won't lie. Ha! But I learn from them. One of my favorite reviews was actually a bad review. But the reader highlighted some excellent points, and I used that to motivate my writing.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
As my body of work increases, I think it will be quite diverse. I enjoy many genres, and I appreciate the challenges that come with writing each one of them. I learn something about myself every time I finish a manuscript. And I guess I like the idea of always creating and learning and challenging myself.
What does literary success look like to you?
Success has come in many steps. My first success was simply finishing my first manuscript, 'Souled Out'. I never thought that day would come, but I wanted it. I wanted to feel that success of finishing something I had dreamed of doing since I was a teen. Of course, my next step of success was publishing my work. That didn't come for some time, however. I took time for college and marriage and pregnancy.
After my daughter was born, I actually began writing 'Frayed' because, at the time, I felt weak and broken from a caesarian section. I had a year and a half of nerve damage from my epidural. And I had never been in such a physically compromised state. I needed Fray's undying strength, as well as her badass attitude. She saved me during this time, reminding me of my own courage and spirit.
When the time came, 'Frayed' was actually published before 'Souled Out'. I was elated with both publications. Not only had I proven to myself that I could finish a manuscript, but I had gone on to write and complete a second one, as well. That's when I knew that I never wanted my next to be my last. I always want to capture these moments that readers can grasp and scream at or love unconditionally.
My absolute dream is being able to make a meager living doing something I love. I care about reaching people and, hopefully, adding something of substance to the world. It would be magical if I could show my daughter that success comes in the package we give it. It isn't pre-written.
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